There’s a steamy horror to Samara Scott’s latest series of curdled collages. The 40 stomachy-sized works are stained with violet hues – puce, clotted purple, tripe, appearing on the walls like projectiles of vomit. Are these traces of an apocalyptic mass poisoning, organs contaminated by acid rain? Prince one said it rains purple when there’s blood in the sky. But purple also signifies beginnings. Purple Earth Theory, put forward by astrobiologists, suggests that three billion years ago, earth was purple, not green, and smothered by a giant purple membrane. Rather guts and bowels, these collages might be swatches taken from an ancient and asphyxiated globe, traces of a forgotten primal world.

Scott moves away from employing buildings as frames, as in The Doldrums (2020), her vast aerial installation at CAPC, Bordeaux. The works in Purple Rains are composed onto sheets of glass or cellophane, onto which Scott affixes an array of matter: spliterings of beads, tinfoil, sim cards, lint, and other matter that is the color of chemical fires and smoke. Though it looks gassy, it’s more like the mulch at the bottom of a bag or in the seams of a pocket. The arrangements of found items recall a Joseph Cornell shadow box. But while Cornell arranged Victorian brac-a-brac, Scott arranges dregs and remains, things that are not weird and surreal so much as formless and decayed, putrid, slipping into another world, another scale.

Scott’s pouch-like works draw on an erotic register, familiar to the pocket, which has long been a source of risqué insinuation, placed often on the breast or beside the crotch. Though these works are not liquified – as in works like ‘Marshes’, a series of liquid cross- sections held in Perspex boxes (2019-21)– they look wet. Glass is stained with fog. Claggy glues hold wafting polythene bags in suspense. There is a grogginess to the work, something edgeless, post-orgasm – temporary annihilations, little deaths. In some works,

Scott has cut Fontana-like slits into red foam. But the slashes don’t gape, as in a Fontana, or give way to seductive voids. Scott is a maximalist. There’s something bubbling –baroque matter that is giddy, pink and which undulates like pleats in a Georgia O’Keeffe labiascape.

In other works, there is something distinctly more domestic, close to a warped doll’s house, like looking inside a Polly Pocket rescued from a house fire. Rooms are cut into upholstery foam, beneath which pillowed pink and purple worlds appear, stuffed with hosiery, cake rings, beads and meaty lumps that are liver-grey or tit-pink. If these are domestic spaces, they are sadistic ones. Objects are being hoarded and suffocated beneath sheets of squeaky cellophane. The tortured boudoirs have the eeriness of a Louise Bourgeois wire cell. Whatever world this is, the materials in it have been drugged and sedated, suspended in hideous hues.

In her short story about Scott’s work, Sofia Samatar imagines a hoarder who has joined a space mission called ‘the Infinity Programme’ and left Earth. He hurtles through space in search of a clean world. The alien matter in Scott’s collages appears like cosmic debris, as if elements of the periodic table are draped in poison colours. In some works, Scott has cut spheres into foam to create planet-like shapes. The foam is stained the colour of mock-pearl and the spheres have dark edges, which appear burnt. Inside the planets are marbled interiors, plush as satin, but comprised of toilet paper, sellotape, nappies. They are portals but also mirages, as Scott skims a fine path between revelation and abstraction. Colours and shapes swirl together to create new forms: at once impossible floating visions, and atmospheric effects.

While Samatar’s narrator imagines the hoarder hurtling through space, she drifts by a junkyard and into a retirement home. Earth appears funerary and full of fumes. Is there such a thing as a clean world? All the fumey, dying things Scott collects up, sticks together and seals under glass, suggests a horror of loss. In her collages, we watch object retire, as if Scott put them in an Infinity Programme. They aren’t going to space, and rather than as silver shuttle they are sealed into pockets, hurtled through time not by a liquified hydrogen, but by household chemicals and fixing agents.

The sealed pockets double up as clammy coffins, so that the pockets appear like cockles prised open, their mucky prizes on display. But if these are coffins, they are open-casket ones. The cellophane surfaces provide peep holes, as Scott’s work becomes that of a mortician applying make-up to a dead body, adding layers of gloss and thickener to smother and pamper these wrecked objects. Prince always performed ‘Purple Rain’ last: as he sang it, opaline rain fell, lit by purple stage lights. For the objects suspended in Scott’s work, it’s also a swan song, their last set. Fallen petals appear amongst the goop, one work, flakes of wax and clods of ash curled into foam appear like a pressed rose, or orifice. In Scott’s work, acts of care confuse with acts of violence. Love is a giant purple membrane; beneath it, the world feeds on itself,

self-penetrates, blooms and wilts.

August 2022

Izabella Scott